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A 'fade-free' legacy, one barn at a time

Clark Byers, who painted ads on some 900 barns in 19 states and helped popularize Rock City Gardens, dies at 89.

By Associated Press
Published February 21, 2004

ATLANTA - After braving charging bulls, slippery roofs and lightning bolts to paint "See Rock City" on barns across the South for three decades, Clark Byers died this week at age 89.

The Trenton, Ga., resident, in failing health for several months, died Thursday, friends said.

Beginning in 1937 and using black paint that he said was "virtually fade-free," Mr. Byers painted some 900 barns in 19 states. For the willing farmers, he threw in Rock City souvenirs as a bonus. He was once nearly electrocuted when a power line fell on a metal barn roof he was working on.

The slogans, including "To miss Rock City would be a pity," promoted a collection of stone buildings atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The signs marked a milestone in the nation's tourism history, said Bill Chapin, president of See Rock City Inc. and the great-nephew of the attraction's founder, Garnet Carter.

"Clark Byers was instrumental in creating a lasting legacy for Rock City Gardens and in implementing Garnet Carter's marketing genius," Chapin said. "Clark, literally and figuratively, enhanced the landscape of America."

He never used stencils to apply the message, but sketched the words in chalk before filling them in. Once he did six barns in a single day. A native of Flat Rock, Ala., Mr. Byers worked in his youth at a cotton mill and later bottled buttermilk at a dairy.

[Last modified February 21, 2004, 01:31:48]

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